Kyrgyzstan has a lot in common with the other Central Asian countries. For example, people in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan like to eat plov and flatbread. You shop in the bazaar. One celebrates Nouruz and plays Buzkaschi (see Typical Tajikistan). Typical of Kyrgyzstan is a drink made from fermented mare’s milk called kumuz and a popular snack made from salty cheese called kurut. What else is typical of Kyrgyzstan?
Pickling is typical for Kyrgyzstan. This is the name given to hunting with trained birds of prey. This type of hunting has been known in Central Asia for several hundred years. In Kyrgyzstan, it is still particularly cultivated today. Hunting on horseback with the help of a golden eagle is particularly typical here. Horses are considered sacred animals and are also called “Kyrgyz wings”.
The yurt is the traditional tent of the nomads in Central Asia. A round wooden frame is covered with felt blankets. Today, canvas is usually still placed over it to repel water. Ropes are pulled over it so that everything holds together. Inside you can cook, sleep and live on a stove. Today, many city dwellers still own a yurt in which they spend the summer, for example. But there are also Kyrgyz people who live as pastoral nomads as they did in the past.
The komuz is a plucked instrument. It has two or three strings and a long, fretted neck, as you might know from the guitar. The komuz is the national instrument of Kyrgyzstan and is also depicted on one of the Kyrgyz banknotes. Above all, the komuz is used to musically accompany singers of the Manas epic, a dramatic story. Manas is the folk hero of Kyrgyzstan and traditionally the stories about him are passed down orally. “Manastschi” recite the verses at festivals.
Kalpak is the name of the traditional Kyrgyz men’s hat. Women mostly wear headscarves, men the kalpak. It is mostly made of felt, but can also be made of fur. The kalpak is tall and has a brim at the bottom. In winter it keeps you warm, in summer it protects you from the sun.
Shyrdak and Tush kyiz
In Kyrgyzstan, Shyrdak is a felt carpet with quilted patterns. It is felted from the wool of sheep, goats or yaks. Most of the time the carpets are two-tone, with red and green being the most common colors. Shyrdaks are still made in the country and are often sold to tourists.
Tush Kyiz, on the other hand, are embroidered wall hangings. Traditionally, they were made by mothers for the wedding of their daughter or son. The Tush Kyiz was then hung over the couple’s bed in the yurt.
Imagine just being kidnapped and married. Unfortunately, this still happens in Kyrgyzstan. This is called the robbery of the bride. Sometimes the kidnappings are arranged, but most of the time they are violent. Ala katschuu is what this bride robbery is called in Kyrgyz. In some areas, almost half of all marriages take place this way.
Many Kyrgyz see this as a Kyrgyz tradition that they are even proud of. For the young women this is usually less funny. In the meantime, the law has been changed and there are now more severe penalties for bride robbery. Since 2013, the number of kidnappings seems to be slowly falling.
Living in Kyrgyzstan
The Kyrgyz traditionally lived in yurts (see Typical Kyrgyzstan). Even today there are still nomads in the country, but only a few. Even in the country, most people now live in solid houses made of mud. In the cities there are small single-family houses, but also larger apartment blocks.
Shopping in Kyrgyzstan
For shopping in Kyrgyzstan you go to the bazaar. That’s what the market is called here. Fresh and dried fruits, vegetables of all kinds, meat and herbs – everything is available here. There are also small and large supermarkets in the cities. The chains Narodni and Beta Store are widespread. In the villages, people get their supplies in small shops where they can buy rice, pasta, tea, sugar or bread. For more information about Kyrgyzstan and Asia, please visit computerannals.
On the way in Kyrgyzstan
The roads in Kyrgyzstan are often not so good, especially in the countryside and in the mountains. Landslides caused by rain, snowfall or cold spells can turn journeys into a real adventure… In the cities there are not only large buses but also minibuses, which are called Marshrutkas here, as in Russia. Taxis look like normal cars and wait for customers at train stations, for example.
Families in Kyrgyzstan are often large. The cohesion is close. It goes without saying that you eat together in the evening, for example. The distribution of roles is still very traditional. The father is considered the head of the family. He feeds the family while the mother takes care of the household and raises the children.
Kyrgyz people are very hospitable. When visitors come, there is delicious food (see Eating in Kyrgyzstan), even with a short visit the guest always receives bread. The guests are greeted with a warm Kosch kelingisder, which means “a warm welcome”. Guests are always given the place of honor farthest from the door. By the way, traditionally you sit on the ground, there are no tables or chairs. The meal is set on a tablecloth, the dastarchan.
Unfortunately, poverty is also part of everyday life for many people in Kyrgyzstan. There is more poverty in the south of the country than in the north. Overall, a third of the population lives in poverty. The streets are often dilapidated and schools and hospitals are in poor condition.